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Maria Rehman, Pakistan, Food Security

What was the journey that brought you to Warwick?Maria Rehman

I have always been interested in biological sciences throughout my academic life, having done my undergraduate in the same field. It was during this time that I developed a keen interest in food science and sustainable agriculture research. Coming from a country that is reliant on its agriculture sector, but also facing the challenges of food security, I knew I wanted to pursue further education in this subject. The Women in STEM scholarship gave me the perfect opportunity to not only follow my dream of studying what I wanted, but also in a country that is at the forefront of its research.

How has your scholarship, and your time so far at Warwick, boosted your career and your confidence as a researcher?

The scholarship has not only given me the opportunity to study what I love at a reputable institute, it has also enabled me to expand my interests beyond the boundary of science. It has provided me a platform to meet new people and network with those coming from diverse backgrounds through seminars and workshops. I have met people who were in my position early in their careers and that has helped me to gain confidence in my abilities. It has also given me the drive to work on what I lack without feeling hesitant. I’m looking forward to starting my personal research in the Spring!

What is your research area, and how will it positively affect the lives of others/the planet? 

I’m doing a Postgrad in Food Security at Warwick. The degree program focuses on the various factors that influence global food security such as climate change, land use, water, biodiversity, etc. The aim is to increase our knowledge of our current food production and distribution practices. This develops our understanding of how various environmental factors act in cohesion with other factors, such as socio-economic and political drivers, and challenge food security.

Can you describe any of the challenges or obstacles you may have faced so far in your career? Have you overcome them?

Being a woman in a STEM field has its challenges, some of which are rooted in patriarchy, no matter what part of the world you are in. The struggle with confidence and finding your place is known to most women, however I am blessed to have an amazing support system in my family and friend as well as certain teachers who have been great mentors. Apart from gender-biases, if I speak about my field in my home country Pakistan, there is a lack of understating of the importance of food security as both an academic field and area that must be invested in for research. There is progress, but there is still a long way to go.

Do you have any advice, from your experiences, for girls and women who wish to pursue a career in science?

My advice for girls and women who wish to pursue a career in STEM is to not be afraid, to step out of their comfort zone. Opportunities don’t wait for anyone; you have to actively pursue them and that requires stepping into unfamiliar territories sometimes. It’s okay to not know everything and to feel scared. You won’t know what you like until you go out and explore your options.

What do you think is the future of women in science?

The future of women in STEM may be bright but it is not secure. As much as the fields of STEM are competitive, unless they show some flexibility to women especially for defined gender roles throughout the world, there will always be a limit to what women can contribute to science. We need to provide them the freedom and flexibility to tackle all their roles and showcase their true potential. The world will be amazed at what women can achieve!

The British Council scholarships for women in STEM enable female scientists from to undertake postgraduate study at Warwick, with funding covering full tuition fees, travel costs, a monthly stipend, and other course-related costs. Applications are currently open for five scholarships available to female students from Brazil and Mexico. Click here for more information.Link opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window